Jeffrey Bank

Jeffrey Bank, B.A.’88

Knowing “What’s Important”

By Carol Olechowski

As a UAlbany undergraduate, Jeffrey Bank majored in sociology and minored in political science, intending to become a lawyer. But the Long Island native opted for a much different career path.

“My next-door neighbor was a restaurant broker,” Bank remembers. “I was looking for a summer job and said, ‘I’d love to come work for you in your office.’” The neighbor suggested instead that Bank go to work in a restaurant. “I worked the whole summer in three restaurants, learning the business. With no time to spend any money, by the end of the summer, I thought I was rich.”

The restaurant business, Bank decided, “looked like a fun and interesting career. Why would I go to law school?” Over the next 10 years, he ran three restaurants on Long Island, selling them to open Artie’s Delicatessen in New York City in 1999.

Bank, however, “quickly got bored in a single restaurant.” Alicart Restaurant Group, a New York-based firm “offering an exciting and unique spectrum of dining concepts,” was undergoing some internal changes just as he was looking for a fresh challenge. Bank joined the company and, in 2006, became CEO.

Alicart Restaurant Group manages annual sales exceeding $70 million. Its flagship brand, Carmine’s – “NYC’s Legendary Family Style Italian Restaurant” – was established in 1990. Carmine’s has two locations in New York City and others in Atlantic City and Washington, D.C., and at the Atlantis in the Bahamas. For 16 years, Alicart has also managed Virgil’s Real BBQ, which is located in Times Square. A 650-seat Virgil’s will open this coming November, also in the Atlantis in the Bahamas. Bank travels to the various restaurants in keeping with his commitment to provide “high-quality dining experiences marked by delicious food, welcoming ambience, great value and superior service.”

One of the best parts of his job, Bank says, is interacting with Alicart’s 1,200 employees and watching them grow: “Some people have been here 21 years, since day one. You’ll see someone who started out as a dishwasher and is now a chef, or a director of Operations who was a server years ago. People are promoted from within. I don’t want a dishwasher or a host to think that will be his or her only job, but more a possible career path. We call it Alicart University. A lot of our employee growth is organic.

“We do also hire people from outside, and we ‘Carminize’ them, as well. New hires will succeed if they understand what’s expected of them and we provide the right tools for them to do their jobs. It’s all about communication. You need to know what’s important to people. Everyone likes to make more money, but it’s also about quality of life and having time for family and friends.”

Drinks and Plates at Carmine's and Virgil's

Bank’s “great experience” at Albany “made me a more effective CEO. In Introduction to Theatre, we helped manage productions and run a theatre. My Spanish-culture class was extremely interesting. My internship with the New York State Senate was a phenomenal opportunity; it gave me great insight into government and the budget process. The well-rounded liberal arts degree I received at Albany has been a very valuable tool in making me successful. Managing people is as important as managing ‘the numbers.’”

Bank has continued the learning process. Early in his career, he discovered that “knowing the business inside and out is the best way to manage it thoroughly. On my first day of work, over 25 years ago, I changed out of my suit and tie and into whites. I wound up washing dishes that day because two dishwashers called in sick. Later, if a waiter didn’t come in, I waited tables. There’s nothing better than practical experience.”